Socitm have published their Better Connected 2010 report looking at council websites across the UK. Only eleven councils (3%) across the UK came out with the maximum four stars. In general, Northern Ireland’s 26 councils didn’t fare well.
There are some extenuating circumstances. Some of the six specific topics that the report assessed and rated as important (jobs, library services, schools, family history, planning, rubbish collection) fall outside the remit of NI’s councils. So while rubbish collection is in scope, library services and schools are dealt with by the remnant Education & Library Boards and the relatively new Northern Ireland Library Authority.
However the thrust of the Socitm research remains valid.
- assessing whether the council websites have the information that people are looking for (in terms of content, links elsewhere, being up-to-date)
- allowing people to “transact business” with the council
- offering the opportunity to influence council policies and decisions
- usability and navigations
“A total of 11 councils received four stars, while Belfast was among the 105 who received three stars, putting it in the top 25 per cent – a major achievement given the resources and budget of councils across the water.”
Belfast also noted some of the comment in the full report (which you have to pay for to see):
“Reviewers described Belfast as one of their favourites, saying it was `a really good all-round website` and `a joy to read`. It praised the plain English style, content, availability, homepage performance and use of social media.”
Well done to Belfast. I wonder will any of the other councils publish the comments made about their lesser-rated websites along with their proposals for improving how they serve local ratepayers?
Drum roll ... the full results for NI’s 26 councils from Socitm Insight. I’ve noted the areas which the specific areas and themes that the report highlighted as being good.
- Belfast City Council – jobs, rubbish collection, up-to-date, content newsworthiness, A-Z index, search, navigation, accessibility
- Coleraine Borough Council – jobs, family history, content newsworthiness, A-Z index, navigation
- Antrim Borough Council – navigation
- Ards Borough Council – navigation
- Armagh City & District Council – nothing of note
- Ballymena Borough Council – nothing of note
- Ballymoney Borough Council – participation, navigation
- Banbridge District Council – family history, navigation
- Carrickfergus Borough Council – navigation, accessibility
- Castlereagh Borough Council – navigation [I've blogged about Castlereagh before]
- Cookstown District Council – navigation
- Craigavon Borough Council – rubbish collection, participation
- Derry City Council – participation
- Down District Council – nothing of note
- Dungannon District Council – nothing of note
- Fermanagh District Council – A-Z index
- Larne Borough Council – navigation
- Limavady Borough Council – navigation
- Lisburn Borough Council – family history, navigation
- Magherafelt District Council – schools [I've blogged previously about Magherafelt]
- Moyle District Council – up-to-date, navigation, resilience
- Newry and Mourne District Council – nothing of note
- Newtownabbey Borough Council – rubbish collection, navigation
- North Down District Council – resilience
- Omagh District Council – conduct transactions, navigation
- Strabane District Council – family history
It has got to be a wake up call for Northern Ireland's councils as they prepare to shuffle down from 26 to 11 larger council blocks if this element of the Reform of Public Administration goes ahead. In an age of technical improvement, shrinking budgets and a move to self-service, council processes have still a long way to go.
Update - You can use Pezholio's mashup to get a feel for the spread of council website performance across the UK.